Half a croissant, on a plate, with a sign in front of it saying '50c'
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Generic Hardware

Hardware sold according to physical properties rather than function
  (+18, -1)(+18, -1)
(+18, -1)
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I've just been to the hardware store, looking for stuff with which to build a model to test my roll-centre migration idea (q.v.) empirically. The experience was as often before; having to search through the entire establishment for something meant for another purpose, but which might be pressed into service, with or without modification, for my current needs. Enlisting the aid of a shop assistant invariably provokes the first question, "What's it for?"

"I'm building a ballistic toaster prototype."

(Assistant looks dubious) "No, sir. I don't think we have any ballistic toaster prototype parts. Sorry."

The problem is that hardware stores stock ever more "spare parts", components of predefined systems developed for predefined purposes, and ever fewer stock lengths of standard sections of various materials. For instance, I couldn't find "aluminium angle" today and had to buy "stair nosing" instead, at an invariably higher price. This phenomenon is suscepible to an analysis in terms of big business attempts to reduce us to passive pure consumers, but I'll pursue that another time.

What I propose is a variety not only of stock lengths but also of brackets, links, ball couplings, bell cranks, Hooke joints, Oldham linkages, pulleys, jacks, pivots, etc. to be available in various sizes and materials at hardware stores; without any mention of any preconception of function.

Ned_Ludd, Jan 03 2008

This might help ... http://www.mcmaster.com/
They stock a lot of the items you mention. [batou, Jan 03 2008]

McMaster catalog http://www.mcmaster.com/
"brackets, links, ball couplings, bell cranks, Hooke joints, Oldham linkages, pulleys, jacks, pivots, etc. " [csea, Jan 03 2008]

Some stuff McMaster doesn't have ... http://www.smallparts.com/
[batou, Jan 03 2008]

Ballistic Toaster Prototype http://www.srimech....oaster/toaster.html
Not quite relevant, but something I built a while ago that you reminded me of [Srimech, Jan 03 2008]

Another interesting supplier of parts http://www.reidsupply.com/
[batou, Jan 03 2008]

Maplin http://www.maplin.c...&worldid=-2&doy=3m1
[hippo, Jan 03 2008]

Grainger http://www.grainger.com
Another good source [csea, Jan 03 2008]

(?) Lego: Pick a Brick http://us.factory.l.../pab/?warning=false
[hippo, Jan 03 2008]

Joy! http://us.factory.l.../pab/?warning=false
Look at the last item on page twenty-four! [nineteenthly, Jan 05 2008]

Half of a Lego Croissant on a Plate for 50¢ http://i211.photobu...nt.gif?t=1199583721
and it only took me a few hours to do. [BJS, Jan 06 2008]

Capsela. This stuff rocks...in deep enough bath water. http://www.construc...m/store/capsela.php
[2 fries shy of a happy meal, Jan 06 2008]


       Once again, important macroscopic cultural and societal changes are perfectly expressed in Lego. When I was young, Lego sets would be composed from a small and well-chosen palette of generic pieces. The limited range of pieces meant that the young Lego engineer could master the possibilities of each one and this deep understanding of what each piece could do was the foundation of Lego creativity. Now Lego sets are increasingly composed of specialised pieces which, while they might look pretty, excel only at one purpose and otherwise have limited potential.
hippo, Jan 03 2008

       It's a bit of a rant, but I bunned it anyway because I agree with it so much. Try asking someone in Halfords for a starter motor, but not for any specific car, and the look of confusion on their faces is priceless.   

       A common phrase that annoys me is "We don't sell products, we sell solutions!" I want products, damnit!
Srimech, Jan 03 2008

       Completely agree, I have spent many hours doing that myself. The link below is one of the most invaluable resources I know for that sort of work. There are a few others I may post as I have time. Best of luck to you !
batou, Jan 03 2008

       You are talking about a Hobby Shop, which were baked till most of them went out of business or online. A glimmer of their former glory exist in "Craft Centers". But yes, the mother of them all is McMaster who sells nearly everything for reasonably high prices.
MisterQED, Jan 03 2008

       There are plenty of engineering stock suppliers out there, if you know where to look, but they often don't do much in the retail market.
8th of 7, Jan 03 2008

       Actually Maplin (in the UK) does a surprising amount of these generic parts (see link) and has a reasonable retail presence.
hippo, Jan 03 2008

       Try bricknet.com [UB] they supply the brick box.(They're not a million miles from you.)
skinflaps, Jan 03 2008

       Yes, one way to get generic Lego now is through the Lego website "Pick a Brick" section (see link), where you can order 'sets' of whatever brick combinations you like. So if you want 500 4x1 bricks, 500 4x2 bricks and 500 6x1 bricks, all in grey, you can have them. People order these kinds of combinations for making architectural models.
hippo, Jan 03 2008

       No disprespect, Mr. Ludd, but isn't this just an "I wish there were more of this kind of shop." idea? As has been pointed out, there are hobby shops and engineering suppliers, both online and offline. Within 4 miles of where I am currently suspended, there is at least one hobby shop which sells brass sheet, aluminium angle, propellors, nylon bolts and host of other goodies. There is also an engineering supply shop which sells, in addition to all the nuts, bolts and threaded rod you might want, sheet and formed metal in just about any imaginable dimension. They are quite happy to sell a square foot of 3mm aluminium, or 18 inches of 2cm diameter rod, in any combination of metrical and empiric measurements. They also sell all manner of odd fitments, bracketry, pullery and attachmentry.
MaxwellBuchanan, Jan 03 2008

       Sorry, [Maxwell], I should have said "Generic Hardware in Cape Town", but judging by the comments of correspondents all over I believe the tendency is quite universal. Yes, there are specialised establishments but, my deerstalker cap being in the wash yesterday, I could not locate one, especially one willing to sell me less than a ton of anything.   

       And I suppose it is a bit of a rant, but then I hold that it is not necessity but fuming discontent that is the true mother of invention. Give me a decent pretext, [bigsleep], and I shall rant!   

       //A common phrase that annoys me is "We don't sell products, we sell solutions!" I want products, damnit!// Indeed, [Srimech], my thoughts exactly, and in so many words!
Ned_Ludd, Jan 04 2008

       //"We don't sell products, we sell solutions!// Try asking them for some 5 molar sodium acetate.
MaxwellBuchanan, Jan 05 2008

       .... or a solution of nitrocellulose in ether .....
8th of 7, Jan 05 2008

       Click on "show all bricks" and look at page 24!
nineteenthly, Jan 05 2008

       That's why there's an internet ... how big would the store need to be to stock all the stuff (generically) we need. Home Depot on steroids.
Arcana, Jan 05 2008

       I have a plan.
nineteenthly, Jan 05 2008

       Darn it! All that and I forgot about the shadow...
BJS, Jan 06 2008

       Completely off topic...again...sort of, but check out this [link] for Capsela. The perfect toy for budding engineers and tinkerers of all fields.   

       I very much agree. I've been to auto parts stores asking for cooling fans to fit certain sizes, 12VDC fuel pumps for diesel etc and even for these simple generic items, I just get blank looks. "is that for a ford or a toyota" ... No help to me.   

       As a neurtic tinkerer I often find myself roaming around the hardware store, in areas I normally wouldn't go. I'll usually get to the checkout with a few random items I've found that "will come in handy", like specific hinges, odd bearings, alloy brackets, etc. It usually gets used at some point or another.   

       As to the lego issue, I know that by the time I was 10 or so, we had such a comprehensive collection of lego bits that we filled 3 20-litre buckets with lego pieces. I spent a busy 2 or three days rationalising these out into containers of like pieces. Mum never forgave me for using up all of her tupperware. It certainly helped but when we were making random constructions, etc as everything was on hand where you needed it. I don't think I ever bothered following the instructions to make what was on the box - we eventually used to buy new lego sets based on the pieces that we could see were in the kit.   

       Anyhoo, a shop like this would be excellent, the more so if it was online. Only problem would be they'd need to have specific dimensions and specs of everything, as often I'm just roaming around finding something to fill a gap, or attach x to y at andle z - because I'm lazy and machining takes ages. Specific materials would help work out strength, if you're that way inclined. They should have access to a custom machining shop for special orders as well.   

       Bun for the idea, I like it- but instead of the //without any mention of any preconception of function// bit, how about a long list of "suggested uses" for cross-referencing along with a description of the part. I'd suggest a database with cross-referencing ability, so I could do a term search for "aluminium, plate, bracket, 45 degrees" - and get a few hits.
Custardguts, Jan 09 2008

       .... And it should bloody well get hits for 'Aluminium", and none for "aluminum".
Custardguts, Jan 09 2008

       You couldn't find Aluminium angle? Where the hell are you? Crumbs, I've got a few bits just lying around.   

       Ah, fudge, someone beat me to the Reid catalog link. Excellent bathroom reading, that.
elhigh, Jan 10 2008


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